Many Employers to Offer “Skinny” Insurance Plans in 2015

According to a survey by the National Business Group released earlier this month, as many as 16 percent of large employers will seek to minimize their healthcare costs next year by offering low-benefit, or “skinny”, plans to their employees.

The companies that will offer skinny plans versus fully ACA-compliant plans were not identified by their industries in the survey; however, traditionally companies with a high percentage of low-wage employees have taken the most advantage of those plans. Skinny plans are considered “minimum essential coverage” by ACA standards by virtue of being employer-provided, but are often lacking other key features that roll into that distinction.

Skinny plans allow employers to avoid a penalty by simply offering a plan, and purchasing one allows the employee to avoid individual mandate penalties by enrolling in a healthcare plan with lower premiums. Unfortunately, the benefits to individuals end there. Some plans cover nothing but preventive care, and all plans feature exorbitant deductibles that can make actually seeking care an unaffordable option should the employee ever require it.

Another significant blow to employees at these companies is that they will not qualify for subsidies to purchase better coverage on state or federal exchanges because their employer offers an ACA-compliant plan, regardless of whether they enroll in that plan or not.

The effect of skinny plans on healthcare costs to providers and vendors remains to be seen.

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